Nobody really knows why people say love instead of zero when notating scores in tennis, but several ideas abound. One school of thought is that it could be from the French word l'oeuf, meaning "the egg", because the number zero looks like an egg (the word would have been modified through folk etymology). Alternatively, it could be from Dutch, or just the word love, implying that before a game starts the players could still have "love for each other". Interesting, but what about the rest of the point values? Why do they increase the way they do? The going theory is that clock faces were initially used to keep track of the score - fifteen, thirty, forty-five, and sixty to win. However, when the concept of deuces was established, people started moving the hands to forty instead of forty-five, as a reminder that you couldn't win with just one point (15 minutes) more - you needed to score twice in a row, or else it was pushed back to 40 again. It's weird but it works, and it's a cool historical fact to know.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd